Adtran ships unified communications software

Adtran Inc. (NASDAQ:ADTN) of Huntsville, Ala. has announced three unified communications software products designed to combine voicemail, faxing and text-to-speech conversion for corporate users.


Although Adtran already makes private branch exchanges (PBXs), the Business Communications System and Enterprise Communications Server could work with hardware from other vendors, such as Nortel Networks Corp. and Avaya Inc., which has agreed to buy Nortel’s enterprise products.


“We can extend unified communications to existing PBXs,” said Jeff Wissing, Adtran’s senior product manager for unified communications. “We use integration hardware to connect to thing like a Nortel or Avaya PBX, things like ‘find me follow me’ and

inbound and outbound faxing.”


The NetVanta Business Communications System for small to mid-sized businesses can accommodate up to 100  users per server and can support Internet Protocol (IP) telephony. NetVanta Enterprise Communications Server can support more than 2,000 users per server. Both work only on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system and also work with time division multiplexing (TDM) systems.


The NetVanta Business Application Server, which handles more than 200 concurrent calls, is designed to let non-technical staff customize their telecom processes.


“You don’t have to be a programmer to set up these applications and integrate these functions into your current systems and databases,” said Chris Thompson, Adtran’s senior product manager for voice.


Pricing depends on user configuration, but small firms could expect to pay US$29 per user for the Business Communications System software alone, not including the server. At the enterprise level, companies could expect to pay US$45 to US$56 per seat for Enterprise Communications Server, Wissing said.


The NetVanta UC products were originally made by ObjectWorld Communications Corp., an Ottawa firm Adtran acquired late last year.


“Since the acquisition, we rebranded it, we added some capabilities,” Wissing said. For example, users can go into their Microsoft Outlook contact list, find someone they want to call and initiate that call by clicking on the phone number.


Adtran manufactures a variety of switches and routers for corporate users, including the NetVanta 1544, a 28-port, Layer 3 Gigabit switch released earlier this year.


The NetVanta 1544 has three variants. All three have a capacity of 68 Gigabits per second (Gbps), 24 standard ports and three SFP slots. The 1544P supports power over Ethernet devices, while the 1544F has four enhanced SFP ports.


Adtran’s foray into unified communications took one industry analyst by surprise.


“I do think it’s kind of an odd market for Adtran,” said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president, global enterprise and consumer research atYankee Group Research Inc. of Boston. “It’s an odd diversion. I would have thought security features or (wide-area network) optimization would be more in line with what they’d do but everyone wants to be a UC vendor I guess.”


Thompson explained why.


“People have asked, ‘Why now?’ When you look at where we were with our product set, pulling in the unified communications piece, pulling in communications-enabled business process was the next step for our product line.”


In its 2008 annual report, Adtran stated its strategy includes selling at lower prices.


The firm also makes digital subscriber line access multiplexers, fibre to the node hardware and other products for carriers. The firm was actually founded during the mid 1980s in response to the U.S. government’s breakup of AT&T Corp. In 2008, most of its revenue was from sales to carriers. Total revenues in 2008 were $392.2 million, of which $108.5 million, or 28 per cent, were enterprise sales. This was up from $476.8 million total sales in 2007, but that year, enterprise sales were $188.8 million, or 40 per cent of cent of total sales.


In its enterprise business, the products are pretty basic, Kerravala said.


“They have very very basic features so if that’s all the customer wants, they might be a good choice,” he said. Comparing switches and routers to tools, he said a user who wants a Swiss Army Knife would be advised to look at a vendor such as Cisco Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif. giant that dominates the switch and router market. But Cisco would charge a premium.


“If all you needed was a basic fork, you would go to Adtran for the price,” Kerravala said.

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